DES MOINES, IA — More than 200 trade groups represented by D.C. lobbyists sent a letter to Congress yesterday, revealing the marching orders prompting Senator Ernst’s sudden doubling down on legal immunity for corporations from employees who get sick due to unsafe conditions at work. When pressed on her vision for the next coronavirus relief legislation, Ernst’s first priority wasn’t Iowa workers, it was making sure “that there are liability protections in place for those businesses.”
This comes as the U.S. Department of Labor reports that 14,586 Iowans filed new jobless claims last week, demonstrating the continued economic toll this coronavirus crisis is taking on working families.
Iowa Forward spokesperson Mazie Stilwell issued this statement in response to the letter and new jobless claims:
“While workers and their families continue to suffer, Senator Ernst is committed to doing exactly what these D.C. lobbyists have instructed: ensure the corporations they represent get a free pass to ignore the safety of their workers. This is no exception for Ernst. Her voting history falls in line with the corporate special interests that fund her campaign: voting to allow insurance companies to discriminate against those with pre-existing conditions, voting against expanded unemployment benefits, and voting against paid sick leave. Couple that record with a refusal to provide state and local governments the funding they need to keep police officers, firefighters, EMS workers, and teachers on the job without the guarantee of corporate immunity, and it’s pretty clear that these lobbyists have Senator Ernst by the puppet strings.
For weeks, Senators Ernst and Grassley refused to take a position on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s dangerous plan for state and local governments to explore the “bankruptcy route,” instead of receiving the federal aid that bipartisan mayors desperately need to avoid laying off police officers, firefighters, EMS workers, and teachers.
Now, Senators Ernst and Grassley are both supporting McConnell’s decision to hold this aid to state and local governments hostage, and giving corporations a free pass to endanger workers is his ransom demand. His red line in the next congressional relief package is ensuring that corporations are able to abdicate their responsibility to their workers. McConnell has made it clear that without offering corporations complete immunity for dangerous behavior, they would not help state and local governments, who are currently bearing the economic brunt of this crisis.
In March, Senators Ernst voted to prevent an extra $600 in unemployment benefits from helping Iowans who have lost their jobs as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Senator Ernst voted to remove paid sick leave from a coronavirus relief bill on March 18, 2020.
Iowa Voices is an issue advocacy, education-focused organization that communicates with Iowans on key issues as they apply to Senator Joni Ernst and her voting record. Our aim is to persuade Senator Ernst to take progressive action on critical issues that impact her constituents while holding her accountable when she fails to do so. Learn more at www.iowavoices.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.